The True Percula Clownfish is a favorite of many marine aquarists, and it now comes in more than 5 different varieties!

The True Percula Clownfish Amphiprion percula is highly prized by most aquarists. It is one of the most sought after clownfish second onlyto its look-alike cousin, the Ocellaris or False Percula Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris, which the popular “Nemo” clownfish was fashioned after. Yet even though these two look almost identical, they have distinct natural distributions, with very limited overlap.This handsome Orange Anemonefish makes an excellent aquarium specimen for any aquarist, from beginners to experts .

The Percula’s coloration ranges from almost all orange oralmost all white, to black and white and multiple variations of those 3 colors. Other common names it is known by include Orange Clownfish, Percula Clownfish, Percula Anemonefish, Blackfinned Clownfish, Eastern Clownfish, Eastern Clown Anemonefish, and Orange Anemonefish.

Notable color morphs, also found in the wild, are specimens that are almost all black. These are commonly known as the Black Crest Percula Clownfish and the Black Percula Clownfish. The middle of Black Crest’s body is all black, including the dorsal fin, and it has very little orange. The Black Percula have traded their orange for the color black and there is very little orange on the body. In the wild these blacker varieties associate with carpet anemones of the Stichodactyla genus, and if not kept with this type of anemone in captivity the black color is known to fade.

The Percula Clown has been successfully bred in captivity and a number of “designer” clownfish combinations have emerged. The term Picasso Clownfish is a popular one, and just like a Picasso, there are typically no two fish in this group that are alike. Other varieties include the Mis-Bar Percula, Snow Onyx Percula, and the Platinum Percula Clownfish. You will pay a premium for the Picasso and other designer clownfish, but just as with the parents, their longevity and durability makes the investment worth it.

The Percula clown is a bit smaller than the Ocellaris, reaching only around 3†in length. In fact they are the smallest of all the clownfish, but because they are so similar in coloration to the Ocellaris these two are extremely difficult to tell apart. It takes a keen eye and sharp memory. Ocellaris Clownfish (False Percula), when in their original coloring, do not have the thicker, well defined black edging that surrounds the white bars that the True Percula Clownfish possesses. Other than color, the primarily distinction between the two is in the dorsal fin. The Percula has 10 dorsal spines (rarely 9) compared to 11 (rarely 10) on the Ocellaris Clown. Also the front half of the dorsal fin on the Ocellaris is higher.

These two clownfish are the only members of the Percula Complex. They share a similar lineage with each other and, believe it or not, with the Maroon ClownfishPremnas biaculeatus. You can see this in their swimming habits and body shape. Fish biologists have shown a common ancestry between these three fish using molecular phylogenetic analysis. This is a process used to analyze, among other things, DNA and protein sequences. They have even suggested that the True Percula and False Percula Clownfish be put into the Maroon Clownfish genus, due to the striking genetic similarities.

This aquarium staple can do well in a fish only tank or a mini reef. It is easy to care for and seems just as happy in a 10 gallon tank or 100 gallon tank. They are omnivores and will accept pretty much anything! Water movement should not be swift in the area they occupy, since they are not very good swimmers. They don’t require special lighting. They can do well in small tanks because they aren’t the most agile swimmers, and because they lack any desire to swim from their host. Thus they can occupy a smaller square footage, but to keep the water quality maintained in smaller spaces, regular water changes of 5% to 10% a week are advised. If keeping them with an anemone, the tank needs to be a minimum of 55 gallons or larger, enough to provide for its needs.

True Perculas get along with all other fish that are peaceful to smaller semi-aggressive fish. With an anemone, they are protected from obnoxious fish like 5 line wrasses and don’t seem to be as intimidated by larger fish. It is a good idea not to house them with groupers, larger eels or other fish that could swallow them whole. Also, do not keep with fish like dottybacks in a nano tank.

Compared to their cousins they are a bit more aggressive with their own kind, so will do best kept as pairs or singly. They can be kept with Skunk Clownfish, if both have an anemone and they are at least 2 feet apart. Avoid keeping them with Maroon Clownfish or with most clowns from the Clarkii complex unless the tank is very large. These fish are simply too aggressive unless the tank that is at least 6 feet long or more, and with the clowns on either end in their own anemone. In a 4 foot tank, Maroon Clownfish have been known to swim all the way over just to attack the other clownfish.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium

True Percula Clownfish, breeding pair

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Breeding Three-band Clownfish (Amphiprion tricinctus) pair with eggs and they are fanning the eggs.

Awesome mated pair of True Percula Clownfish fanning their newly laid and fertilized eggs! Most of the time in open aquariums such as these, the eggs are picked off within a day or so. If wanting to breed your clownfish and develop babies, a 10 gallon tank and a flower pot is all you need! Of course, rotifers and other special foods, as well as multiple water changes daily will ensure success!

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Amphiprion
  • Species: percula
True Percula Clownfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Range ph: 7.8-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The True Percula Clownfish Amphiprion percula was described by Lacepede in 1802. They are found in the Western Pacific; from Queensland and Melanesia, the north part of the Great Barrier Reef, the north part of New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Britain. They are also found in Sulawesi creating a slight overlap with the Ocellaris or False Percula Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

This clownfish is one of two species belonging to the Percula Complex. These fish are commonly confused with the other complex member, its close cousin the Ocellaris Clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris. These two species can be almost identical in appearance, yet they have distinct natural distributions with very limited overlap. As juveniles, they do look very similar except the Percula Clownfish has thicker black edging around all three white bands. This black at times will extend and cover the entire area below the dorsal fin to the pectoral fins, and between the first two stripes as an adult. This does not occur with Ocellaris Clownfish. While young, the True Percula should have some “darker†dusting on the upper back under the dorsal fin. Also, the True Percula, if you can “pin it down and count,†has 10 dorsal spines, which are also shorter than the False Percula or Ocellaris Clownfish.

Other common names the True Percula Clownfish are known by include Orange Clownfish, Percula Clownfish, Percula Anemonefish, Clown Anemonefish, Anemone Fish, Blackfinned Clownfish, Damselfish, Eastern Clown Anemonefish, Eastern Clownfish, and Orange Anemonefish.

They have been bred in captivity and many “designer†colors have been developed. Any of these patterns can occur in the wild, but that is rare and they are most commonly just found in the tank bred varieties. These tank bred varieties have designer names such as Premium Picasso, Picasso, Platinum, Misbar (though Misbar is not a premium fish pattern), and more recently Snow Onyx which is a cross between an Ocellaris and Percula Clownfish.

The True Percula inhabits lagoons and seaward reefs. They have also been found on outer reef crests and reef faces within a host anemone. They are found in shallower waters from between 3 to 39 feet (1 to 12 m), They feed on zoobenthos including copepods, detritus, amphipods, small shrimps and prawns, as well as algae, weeds, and planktonic invertebrates. They do recognize as a cleaner, the commensal shrimp Periclimenes holtuisi, which is commonly known as the Anemone Shrimp.

They dwell in coral reefs and are known to associate with several types of anemones. The anemone host will protect them from predators using its stinging tentacles. Hosting anemones include the Magnificent Anemone Heteractis magnifica, Leathery or Sebae Anemone Heteractis crispa, Merten’s Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla mertensii, and the Giant Carpet Anemone Stichodactyla gigantea. These clowns are very dependent on their anemone host so and will not venture far from this protective home.

A male and female pair will share their anemone with up to 4 other non-breeding Percula Clownfish. All members are tolerated in this group but they will form a hierarchical relationship. A pecking order is established with dominance determined by size, so the smallest is the most picked on. In lagoons areas they usually associate with the Merten’s Carpet Anemone S. mertensii, while those dwelling on the outer reefs are found with Magnificent Anemone H. magnifica. It has also been noted that those specimens with darker colors are found to associate with the carpet anemones of the Stichodactyla genus in the wild. If they are not kept with one of these anemones in captivity, their darker colors will fade.

  • Scientific Name: Amphiprion percula
  • Social Grouping: Varies – They usually found in pairs, but a pair will share an anemone with up to 4 non-breeding members. The group has a hierarchical relationship, establishing a pecking order with the largest fish being dominant.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The True Percula Clownfish is a fairly deep bodied clownfish from the Percula Complex. These fish typically have a more elongated body similar to Ocellaris and Maroon clowns. They have 10 dorsal spines (rarely 9), and also similar to those other two, they have a deep dip in the middle of the dorsal fin. This makes it look almost like they have double dorsal fin. The tail fin is rounded which prevents them from being overly agile swimmers.

They can be various shades of orange and have 3 white vertical bars on the body. One is over the gill area, the second runs mid-body and usually has a forward projecting bulge, and the third one is at the base of the tailfin. Some specimens will develop more black between the first and second bars. All the white bars can vary in shape and are trimmed in a thicker black edge than Ocellaris.

They have been bred in captivity and many “designer†colors have been developed. Although any of these can occur in the wild, the patterns are most commonly found in the tank bred varieties. These include:

  • True Percula: This is the original color and is typically more costly than Misbars.
  • Misbar: This color variation is orange with either 3 white bars that either partially or totally missing. One or more bars do not extend from the top to the belly. These fish are typically the least expensive due to their poor markings.
  • Picasso: This color variation is less expensive than the premium cost so due to the fact that none of the white bars connect, although the white bars come in various shapes and configurations making each fish quite unique.
  • Platinum: The only black on this color variation is found on the tips of all the fins. There may or may not be some orange in the balance of the fins, but the entire body is white with no black bars or any other dots or markings, and the fish may or may not have an orange nose.
  • Snow Onyx: This fish is a cross between an Ocellaris and Percula Clownfish. It is a variation on the Ocellaris designer clown fish called the Snowflake. Typically the middle bar is extended to be as wide as the main body of the fish, but not quite connecting to the front and back white bars. Thus the “snowy†or more white appearance.

There is also varieties found in the wild with larger amounts of black, as in these;

  • Black Crest Percula Clownfish: this color variant, like the basic True Percula is found in the wild. They have all black, including the dorsal fin between the first and second white bars. The basic True Percula’s don’t have a black dorsal fin.
  • Black Percula Clownfish or Super Black Percula Clownfish: Also found in the wild these clown fish have traded their orange for the color black. There is very little orange on the body.

They are the smallest of all the clownfish species, reaching barely over 3 inches (8 cm) in length. They can have a lifespan of 20 years or longer, reportedly females can live up to 30 years.

  • Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm)
  • Lifespan: 20 years – They have been known to live 20 years or more in captivity, with females said to be up to 30 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The True Percula Clownfish are recommended for beginners as they are very hardy and easy to care for. This is especially true if they are tank bred. They are quite resistant to most infectious diseases and seldom suffer from infections. Amphiprion members in general are very hardy and they can be safely treated with medicine or copper drugs if infected. Like many other clownfish, with proper technique It can be bred and the fry raised in captivity.

Wild caught specimens are generally in better shape than their Ocellaris cousins, possibly because these fish are highly favored and command a higher price. Still they may need a little more time adapting than captive bred. Providing very clean water and live foods to help them adjust. Wild caught fish may need an anemone host as well, since this is what they are used to in the wild. But it is not totally necessary if the other tank mates are peaceful and the clown does not feel threatened. Feeling threatened causes them undue stress which may lead to disease, which is typical with all saltwater fish. The nice thing about keeping them with an anemone, your choice of tank mates opens up a little more, larger fish will not serve as a threat to the clownfish.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The True Percula Clownfish are omnivores. In the wild, they feed on algae, very small shrimp, anemone tentacles, planktonic fish eggs, fish larvae, and some polychaete worms. Provide variety in their diet that includes meaty foods such as mysis and brine shrimp, finely chopped fish and shrimp flesh. They should also be fed flake and pellets with Spirulina added if there is not enough algae in the tank for them to feed on.

Feed adults twice a day and juveniles 3 to 4 times a day, whatever they will consume in about 3 minutes. This is especially important to keep your copepods population from becoming diminished. Provide an area in the tank where the water is not too strong, so they can feed easily.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – Use products with Spirulina added if there is not enough algae in the tank.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Live foods can be given to a breeding pair to condition for spawning and can be given to wild caught specimens to help acclimate them.
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feed adults twice a day and juveniles 3 to 4 times a day.

Aquarium Care

These clownfish are hardy and fairly easy to keep. They do well when provided good water conditions and a well maintained tank. Although they are tolerant of less than perfect water quality, prolonged poor water quality will result in illness and disease with any saltwater fish. Regular water changes done bi-weekly will also help replace the trace elements that the fish and corals use up. Guidelines for water changes with different types and sizes of aquariums are:

  • Fish only tanks:
    • Nano/Small tanks up to 40 gallons, perform 15% water changes bi-weekly.
    • Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 20% to 30% monthly depending on bioload.
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 20% to 30% every 6 weeks depending on bioload.
  • Reef tanks:
    • Nano/Small tanks up to 40 gallons, perform 5% water changes weekly.
    • Medium sized up to 90 gallons, perform 15% bi-weekly.
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 10% bi-weekly to 20% monthly, depending on bioload.

For more information on maintaining a saltwater aquarium see: Saltwater Aquarium Basics: Maintenance. A reef tank will require specialized filtration and lighting equipment. Learn more about reef keeping see: Mini Reef Aquarium Basics.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Do bi-weekly water changes of 15% every 2 weeks or 30% a month. If there are corals in the tank then 5% weekly to 15% every 2 weeks, depending on the tank size.

Aquarium Setup

Clownfish can be kept in either a saltwater aquarium or a mini reef. The True Percula is the smallest clownfish, so a minimum tank size of 10 gallons will work great, but make sure water quality stays high with frequent water changes. This would be for one clownfish. If you want a pair, 20 gallons minimum is suggested. In tanks without an anemone, provide plenty of places to hide and do not house it with aggressive fish. Although it will appreciate a host anemone, it isn’t essential as they will readily adapt to a salt water tank without one. Often they will use a coral or other invertebrate, or even a rock structure, as a substitute. Live rock is suggested for the fish to hide in and forage off of.

If attempting to keep it with an anemone, provide a tank that is at least 55 gallons or larger, according to the particular anemone’s needs. The clown has no special lighting requirements but an anemone will need to have adequate lighting. It also needs and good water quality so the tank should be well established, meaning 6 months to a year old. Water movement is not a significant factor but it needs a slow circulation in some areas of the tank to feed. While other fish avoid the anemones stinging tentacles least they become its food, your clown fish will spend most of its time nestled down in it.

This species lives in tropical areas and their natural habitat is generally about 80° F (26.7° C). In an aquarium, water temperatures between 74° – 79° F (23 – 26° C) work best. Extremes above 90° F (32° C) or below 64° F (18° C) would be beyond their tolerance. Optimum spawning occurs at temperatures between 79°F to 83°F (26°C to 28°C). They can tolerate a pH range from 7.8 to 8.4.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L) – A minimum of 10 gallons is needed, with 20 gallons suggested for a pair. If keeping it with an anemone a larger tank of 55 gallons or more will be needed, depending on the anemones requirements.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes – No smaller than 10 gallons.
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places – Rock structures with hiding places are important for this fish, especially when there is no anemone present.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Any – It has no special lighting requirements though if kept with a host, the anemone will need strong lighting.
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F – The optimal temperature for good quality eggs and larvae occurs with temperatures of 79° F to 83° F (26° – 28°C).
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG – May be lowered to 1.009 for a short time when treating ailments.
  • Range ph: 7.8-8.4 – 7.8 pH 8.4 pH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any – Provide an area of slower water movement to enable them to feed.
  • Water Region: Top – If they have adopted a hosting anemone or coral they tend to stay in the same vicinity, but may also adopt a powerhead as a host and then will stay higher up in the water column.

Social Behaviors

The True Percula Clownfish is considered semi-aggressive. As with any clownfish, they are at home in a reef setting, but also do well in a fish only set up. Like the Ocellaris Clownfish, they are one of the least aggressive clownfish, but they do tend to be more belligerent towards their own kind than their cousin. They will also get more grouchy as they get older. They do best kept singly or as a pair. In the aquarium this species typically does not tolerate others outside the pair. They have a mellow demeanor toward other fish if they are kept without an anemone. When a male/female pair are kept with an anemone their aggression level will climb but is still less than that of other clowns.

Overall this is a more peaceful little fish and should be kept with similarly peaceful creatures. If keeping it in a smaller tank, under 55 gallons or less, and without an anemone, do not house it with any semi-aggressive or aggressive fish. With an anemone however, it can tolerate semi-aggressive fish, just not fish large enough to swallow it whole. It can be kept with larger semi-aggressive fish such as tangs and wrasses, as long as there are places for it to retreat. Do not house this Clownfish with species of clowns from the Clarkii complex, Tomato (Ephippium) complex, are the Maroon complex. These types of clownfish are too aggressive to be with other clowns, or even each other.

  • Compatibility with other Clownfish:
    Clownfish will produced from 2 to 17 clicks in a row while being attacked or in attacking mode. They will at times produce “chirps” (aimed at larger fish) and “pops” (aimed at smaller fish) that are audible to divers or even aquarists. They are actually silent when mating. Pops are heard in sets of two or one, right before a chirp noise, so they may be carrying on two different conversations! Saying, “Get out of here Angelfish!” and “hey you subordinate, get in line!”

    They use their teeth to produce the sound and the jaws are the built in amplifier, so it stands to reason that the noises may very from clownfish species to species, sort of like a dialect or accent. There are a total of 29 clownfish that produce audible sounds, with some louder than others. Within the loudest three are the Clark’s Clownfish, Tomato Clownfish, and Pink Skunk Clownfish.

    The behaviors between the same species of clownfish are very interesting and easy to identify. Constant dominating displays by a female prevents a male from changing sex. An aggressive clownfish will displays “agonistic behavior” while the subordinate clown will display “appeaser behavior.†The aggressive fish has specific actions in which the subordinate clownfish reacts to:
    • If the aggressive fish, typically the female, is chasing and chirping, the subordinate clownfish, which can be a male or sub adult, will rapidly quiver their body as they drift upward and they will produce clicking sounds.
    • Jaw popping by the aggressive clownfish results in the subordinate clownfish shaking their body or head.
    • Ventral leaning by the aggressive clownfish results in the subordinate clownfish quivering.
    • An aggressive clownfish displaying a dorsal leaning results in the subordinate clownfish performing ventral leaning.

      “Personally, I did an experiment involving 3 Percula Clownfish juveniles, since this species typically does not tolerate others outside the pair, unlike Ocellaris. The thought was, since both are closely related, maybe I could get a Percula three-some in a smaller 46 gallon tank. I let two True Perculas who were about 1.5†to 2†bond in a separate tank, then once they got to a point where they didn’t leave each other’s side, I left them together for about 2 weeks. I then removed the original male (smaller fish) and introduced another male. Both tanks used the same water. After the female bonded to the new male, I again allowed a few weeks to pass (this while allowing all the fish to see each other between the two tanks). I then put all 3 together into the tank where the one male was now alone. Almost a year later, they were all still getting along. The female bonded with both, though the smaller male was not her favorite, she often “cuddles†with him on and off. The two males didn’t seem to have any rivalry either, even when all were adults. There was no anemone present in the tank, so who knows if that variable would cause a different outcome. The female was displaying and doing the “spawn†dance with one of the males and the other male was not chased during this time either.”… Carrie McBirney
  • Compatibility in a mini reef:
    In a reef setting, clownfish fit in perfectly, especially with a host anemone. Clownfish will typically not bother any corals, with the exception of picking algae off the base of a coral that they have adopted as a host. A host anemone will provide a rich naturalistic environment for your clown. While other fish avoid the anemones stinging tentacles least they become its food, your clown fish will spend most of its time nestled down in it. Though sea anemones are a striking addition to any reef aquarium, they are more challenging to keep. If you decide to keep an anemone you must make sure its special needs are met.

    They have been known to adopt alternate hosts, such as certain large polyped stony corals (LPS), hairy mushroom corals (corallimorphs), Xenia, or even filamentous algae if present. Be cautious with the Elephant Ear Mushroom or Giant Cup Mushroom Amplexidiscus fenestrafer. It has been known to trap and eat juvenile clownfish and should be monitored.
  • Compatible host anemones:
    The relationship between an Ocellaris Clownfish and their host sea anemone is known as symbiosis, where they provide benefits to one another. These particular Clownfish stay within 12″ of their sea anemones in the wild. The immunity of the clownfish to the sting of an anemone’s tentacles allows them to dwell in this host, preventing larger fish who would otherwise eat the clownfish from getting at them. The bright coloration of this clownfish may also alert tell the predator that they will be stung if they get too close. The clownfish will, in turn protect its host from fish that eat anemones. In fact, a study was done in the wild, where they removed clownfish from the anemones, and these anemones were quickly attacked by various fish. The clownfish will also clean off debris, snack on the remnants of any meal the anemone has captured and provide the anemone “nutrition” in the form of waste that the clownfish produce.

    Though sea anemones are a striking addition to any reef aquarium, they are more challenging to keep. When kept with an anemone, the True Percula Clownfish will only venture about 12†from their host. They will not typically bother other clownfish living in another anemone within the same tank, but you should provide at least 2 feet in between clownfish sets. This kind of setup will require an appropriate sized tank for the particular anemones.

    Host Anemones the True Percula Clownfish is known to associate with in the wild include:
    “Mine actually adopted a silk plant after it rejected a Bubble Tip Anemone! Try as you may Bubble Tip Anemones are not their first choice. My personal experience is wild caught True Perculas will likely adopt a Bubble Tip Anemone, but most tank bred Perculas typically won’t. It’s a 50/50 shot with tank bred. Go for Sebae Anemones, they look similar, and these clowns will adopt them”… Carrie McBirney

Be cautious adding Condy Anemones Condylactis gigantea. These are very mobile, predatory anemones, and are not a “clown hosting anemoneâ€. Their sting is much stronger than clown hosting anemones, and there is a risk to the clownfish who is foolish enough to engage it may eventually be eaten. Many who have had clowns hosted by Condylactis have said, “one day the clownfish was gone, and I kept the anemone well fed!â€.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive – This is considered a more peaceful clownfish. They are a 3 to 4 out of a clownfish aggression scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most aggressive, but will increase slightly to a 5 when an anemone and eggs are present.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – Can be kept as male and female. In a very large tank, over 100 gallons with a very large anemone, they will allow up to 4 non-breeding clownfish to share the anemone. In some cases, you may be able to have more than 2, but keep an eye on the 3rd one for signs of abuse.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Do not attempt to keep them together in a tank that is under 55 gallons. Do not house the Ocellaris with clownfish from the Clarkii Complex, Tomato Complex (Ephippium), or the Maroon Complex. Dwarf Angelfish also may be too aggressive as tankmates.
    • Monitor – Dottybacks should be housed alone due to their aggression. Damselfish are okay only if the tank is very large, over 100 gallons and there are plenty of places for the damsels or clowns to hide.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor – Do not attempt in a tank that is under 55 gallons without an anemone. Add anemone and clownfish first. Only more peaceful tangs and wrasses that will not bother the Percula Clownfish can work, just watch out for aggression on their part.
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat – Do not keep with fish large enough to swallow the clownfish whole.
    • Monitor – Seahorses should only be housed in their own environment. Pipefish and mandarins may be fine in a very large, mature tank with live rock that has plenty of copepods. Anemones and similar corals pose a threat to the mandarin, so take that into consideration when planning your tank set up.

    • Anemones: Safe – Prefers to associate with Heteractis crispa, Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla gigantea, and Stichodactyla mertensii anemones. Do not house with Condylactis Anemones as these are not clown hosting anemones and may eventually kill and eat your clownfish. Caution with Carpet Anemones for similar reasons.
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Safe – May adopt Hairy Mushrooms as a host. Be cautious with large mushrooms such as Elephant Ear Mushrooms (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer) which can trap and eat juvenile clownfish.
    • LPS corals: Safe – May adopt Frogspawn Coral and similar large polyped stony corals (LPS) as a host.
    • SPS corals: Safe – May adopt some species of soft coral as a host.
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Safe
    • Leather Corals: Safe
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Safe – May adopt as a host.
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Safe
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Safe
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Females are larger than the males.

Breeding / Reproduction

The True Percula Clownfish has been bred in captivity and the fry successfully reared. All clownfish are undifferentiated when born but they are sex switchers. With certain social cues they change into juvenile males, and then when the opportunity arises a dominant fish will become female. To obtain a pair, get two different sizes and the larger will assume the female role and the smaller will be male. Clownfish do not spawn their entire lives, and will stop spawning several years before their live expectancy is over.

In nature True Percula Clownfish spawn when the water is 79° F to 83° F (26° – 28°C). This is also the case when breeding in captivity. It is necessary to condition them with nutritious foods to fatten them up. Courtship will begin from 3 to 5 days before spawning, and during this time the female’s belly starts to swell with eggs.

As the male and female get close to spawning, they vigorously clean an area of rock very close to the anemone, in order for the eggs to adhere correctly. They perform various rituals such as head standing, touching their ventral surfaces, or leaning towards each other with dorsal surfaces touching as they shake their heads.

When the female is ready to lay her eggs she will nip at the anemone so it retracts, exposing the spawning sight. She will then lay her eggs, closely followed by the male who promptly fertilizes them. Spawning is known to occur late morning to early afternoon and can last up to 2 1/2 hours. A clutch of True Percula Clownfish eggs number between 67 to 649, with an average being 331. Hatching will happen on the eighth day. This usually occurs at night from 1 to 1 1/2 hours after sunset, and all will hatch within two hours, with the larvae ascending into the water column.

Within 8 to 16 days, the larvae in the wild who survive not being eaten or in captivity survive fungus or other maladies, become free swimming young clown fish. Then the search for their anemone for protection begins. Two forms of recognition of the host anemone occur when these fish are still growing in their eggs. One is a scent that the particular anemone emits that they have been laid by, and/or the visual recognition of their parents swimming within the tentacles. It is thought that the Elephant Ear Mushroom coral emits odors similar to certain anemonefish, which lures the very young juveniles to their death once in the clutches of this very large mushroom.

In captivity, they will lay 300 to 600 eggs per nest. Typically they spawn once a month, though they may spawn as often as every 3 weeks. True Percula Clownfish are slower to mature than their cousin the Ocellaris. These clownfish take at least 7 to 8 months to grow to 1.5″ which is when they are able to be sold. The Ocellaris will reach this size a couple of months earlier. See general clownfish breeding techniques on the Breeding Marine Fish page.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Typically clownfish are extremely hardy, so disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. However when they do get sick some diseases are quite deadly. Clownfish are susceptible to the same types of illnesses as other marine fish including bacterial, fungal, parasitic or other diseases, and injury. All saltwater fish will get sick if good water quality is not maintained, the temperature fluctuates too much, or the fish is stressed due to inappropriate tank mates. A stressed fish is more likely to acquire disease.

Clownfish are particularly prone to Brooklynellosis or Clownfish Disease Brooklynella hostilis (Brook), Marine Ich Cryptocaryon irritans, also called White Spot Disease or Crypt, Marine Velvet or Velvet Disease Oodinium ocellatum (Syns: Amyloodinium ocellatum, Branchiophilus maris), and Uronema disease Uronema marinum. All of these are parasites.

The most easily cured of these is Crypt (salt water Ich), but they are all treatable if caught in a timely manner. Marine Velvet is a parasitic skin flagellate and one of the most common maladies experienced in the marine aquarium. It is a fast moving that primarily it infects the gills. Brook kills within 30 hours but the Uronema disease is one of the quickest killers, as in overnight. Uronema is often contracted when the aquarist lowers their salinity to treat another type of illness, but don’t lower it far enough. This parasite thrives in mid-level brackish water salinity, which is a specific gravity of around 1.013 to 1.020.

Be sure to treat for any illness at a normal salinity with a specific gravity of about 1.023, or at a low salinity of about 1.009. Quick Cure and other 37% Formalin products will work perfectly well in both salinity ranges, but the lower 1.009 will help with the oxygen level. The amount of oxygen in the water increase as the salinity level is reduced. “I personally noticed when battling Brook or Crypt using the proper hypo-salinity of 1.009, no higher, my clowns almost seemed to breath easier and be less stressed”… Carrie McBirney.

Anything you add to your tank that has not been properly cleaned or quarantined, including live rock, corals and fish can introduce diseases. The best prevention is to take care to properly clean or quarantine anything you want to add to the tank. A few other ways to proactively prevent disease are to provide quality foods, clean good quality water, and proper tank mates. For information about saltwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The True Percula Clownfish is readily available in pet stores, breeders, and online. These fish are easy to acquire and are moderate in price unless the specimen is of a “designer” coloring. The specialty varieties can range from modest up to a ridiculous price, into the hundreds of dollars!


Featured Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock